John Wall outdoes Eric Bledsoe down stretch

February 5, 2013

 

Eric Bledsoe
(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

With roughly three and a half minutes to play in the third quarter Monday night, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe chased down Martell Webster, elevated as the Washington Wizards forward was attempting a fast-break layup and swatted the shot, drawing gasps from the crowd at Verizon Center.

The game was tied at that point, and Bledsoe was putting together quite the highlight reel and stat line in facing John Wall, his teammate at Kentucky. By the end of the third quarter, the Clippers’ starting point guard had what were then game highs of 17 points and eight assists with two turnovers.

“He’s proving why he belongs in the league,” Wall said of Bledsoe, who moved into the starting lineup because Chris Paul is nursing a bruised right kneecap. “He’s not secondary to me. He made shots today. You want to make him make contested jump shots, and that’s what he was doing.”

Wall, meantime, had missed 8 of 11 shots and was in jeopardy of losing for a sixth straight time to his close friend.

But the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 outdid Bledsoe down the stretch, and the Wizards emerged with a 98-90 win that sent the reeling Clippers to their third consecutive loss.

Wall had six points in the fourth quarter, including a jumper followed by a dunk, to help Washington open a 91-81 lead with 2:27 to play that all but ensured the end to a four-game losing streak. He also played suffocating defense on Bledsoe in the closing stages, forcing him to commit a pair of costly turnovers.

“Turnovers are going to happen,” said Bledsoe, who did not score in the fourth quarter and finished with nine assists but four turnovers. “It’s going to happen. It’s part of the game. You just can’t compound it.”

The Clippers committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter and 20 overall, five short of their season high, leading to 24 points for Washington. Forward Lamar Odom had a game-high five turnovers, and forward Caron Butler, formerly of the Wizards, committed four.

No Wizards player turned over the ball more than twice, and the team’s starting back court of Wall and Garrett Temple had as many turnovers combined as Bledsoe.

“The turnovers right now are just putting us back on our heels,” said Clippers Coach Vinney Del Negro, whose team has at least 20 turnovers in two of the last three games. “You can’t afford to do that especially against teams with John Wall getting out in the open court and making the game easier for everybody.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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